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Monday, 11 May 1987
Page: 2905

Mr PORTER(3.14) —The dire consequences of the Hawke Australian Labor Party Government's spending spree are now becoming clear for all to see. We know that as a result of Labor's policies inflation is up, interest rates are up, the deficit is up, and so the list goes on. But what does this mean in human terms? What are the social consequences of Labor's policies? The shocking truth is that Labor has shattered every Australian's dream; that is the dream of owning a home. The headlines in today's newspapers tell the story. The Adelaide Advertiser states `Average family can't afford a new home', and in the Australian `Home loan payments up 25 pc since 1985'.

Our history of immigration reflects the great desire of people coming here to better themselves and their families. Australia had a reputation for being a country where one could work hard and get a family home. It was known as the lucky country. Under the Australian Labor Party, a family is lucky to make ends meet. Someone buying a home is lucky if he can keep up his repayments. During the second half of 1986, 81 per cent more home loans were in arrears than during the second half of 1985. The number of people in difficulties with keeping up their home loan repayments has skyrocketed under Labor.

Someone seeking to rent will be lucky to be able to pay the rent; indeed, he will be lucky to find a house to rent. Someone looking for public housing will be lucky to get it because the queues have exploded under Labor. A young person who wants to get married, start a family and buy a house will be lucky to be able to afford it under this Government. In November 1984, the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) said:

We pledge ourselves to bring home ownership once again within the reach of ordinary Australians.

What, in fact, has happened? The Prime Minister has put home ownership beyond the reach of ordinary Australians and families now find it harder than ever to buy a home. The cost of both buying and renting a house has increased dramatically because of Labor's policies.

Interest rates have risen to record levels. In December 1984, they were 11.5 per cent; last month they were 15.5 per cent. The Real Estate Institute yesterday indicated that average home loan repayments have increased by a staggering $281 a month under the Hawke Labor Government. They increased from $350 a month during the March quarter of 1983 to $631 a month during the December quarter of 1986.

When Labor was elected in March 1983, it required 19.2 per cent of the median family income to repay an average home loan--

Mr Tim Fischer —What is it today?

Mr PORTER —At the time of the last election, in December 1984-when the Prime Minister promised to bring the cost of homes within the reach of the average family and also that interest rates would come down-the figure was 20.3 per cent of the median family income. That figure soared to a record high of 26.9 per cent in the December quarter to 1986. In other words, families have never had such difficulty in paying for their homes. More and more families cannot afford to buy a house under Labor.

Rental vacancies are at their lowest level ever. During March, only six in every 1,000 rental properties in Sydney were available to rent. Of course, under Labor rents have gone up. Private rents rose by more than 10.5 per cent in the year to December 1986. Fewer houses are being built. In 1984-85, 153,000 were built, but in 1986-87 it is expected that only 118,000 will be built. So much for the Government's record of assisting young home owners and getting Australians into their own homes. Labor members stand up here, day after day, saying: `We will stand on our record'. Their record is that now, more than ever, Australian families cannot afford to buy a home.

More and more families are being forced into rental properties. There is a shortage of such properties, and their cost has increased. As a result, more and more people are being forced on to public housing waiting lists. Thus we have seen a blossoming of the number of people on public housing waiting lists. In June 1983 there were 124,000 people on public housing waiting lists, whereas in June last year the number was 157,000. This situation has arisen because of the economic policies of the Labor Government. It has caused interest rates to go though the roof and its taxation policies, including the capital gains tax and the removal of negative gearing, have driven investors out of the home building and renting market. Labor has only itself to blame.

I want to recall a time when Australian families could actually buy a home and afford to pay the mortgage interest rates. I cannot remember a time when so many families have been confronted with such devastated economic difficulties as they face today. The cost of their housing is chewing up a larger and larger portion of their pay packet.

At the same time, of course, other costs have also increased. The cost of essential items for families has gone through the roof. The price of food has gone up by 29 per cent; clothing prices for family and children have increased by 28 per cent; the cost of transport to get to work and for the children to get to school has gone up 30 per cent; and health and education costs have also increased. As we heard in Question Time today, the Prime Minister's response to this problem facing Australian families is to blame it all on overseas nations and on our overseas trading position. He says that we all have to take a cut in our standard of living because of the difficulties we face in the international trading markets of the world.

As a farmer and exporter, I can tell the House that we have always had to battle to win and maintain overseas markets. Those markets have always been fickle and we have always had to change to meet market demands. For example, if the wool price is down, farmers who have the ability to change the balance of their production tend to move into cattle, fat lambs, or grain. If grain prices fall-as, indeed, they have done recently-people tend to move into sheep, and that is one of the reasons why the sheep price has increased.

We cannot and will not ever succeed in selling our products overseas if the cost of production continues to skyrocket as a result of the Government's economic policies, taxes and charges. As a nation, we just cannot afford to carry the burden that this Government's extravagant spending spree has placed on us. We will battle the international markets, and we will change to meet international demands. We can get out of our trading problems; we always have done and we will always do so. However, we will not be able to do so if this Government continues to add to the burden of domestic costs through increasing its taxes and charges. We cannot afford to carry this Government any longer. If the Government would only get off the back of our wage and salary earners and get out of the way of our manufacturers and exporters, we could get back into the game.

Australian families are being squeezed like never before; more and more just cannot make ends meet. This matter of public importance is not some political stunt that we have raised today; it is real life. Families have never been under such an attack. Their taxes are up. They are paying more in pay as you earn tax, and they will be paying even more after the changes on 1 July than they were paying when this Government came to office.

Families with children have been especially disadvantaged by this Government's policies. The value of the spouse rebate and the family allowance has been cut by 25 per cent by this Government. No wonder even the unions are starting to react against the Government. The Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association has put out a pamphlet entitled `Family Income Under Pressure'. It states:

Single income families with dependent children are under financial pressure today as never before.

The unions are saying that their members, their wives and their children cannot sustain their standard of living under this Government, and what is more they are finding it extraordinarily difficult to make ends meet. The SDA states:

. . . the larger the family, the greater has been its financial loss.

Low income families have suffered the most from the decline in the value of family allowances.

So much for the Australian Labor Party's belief that it can assist low and middle income families in Australia. It has consigned low and middle income families in Australia to the rubbish heap. The Government does not care, the Prime Minister does not care and, of course, the Treasurer (Mr Keating), in his car with tinted glass windows, does not care about middle and low income Australians. Instead of helping the families who are having such difficulty in making ends meet, the Government plans to increase family taxes. It is looking at reducing the dependent spouse rebate and the family allowance in yet another attack on families, especially single income families. The Australian Catholic Social Welfare Commission said recently:

Any reduction in family benefits would be a hidden and unfair increase in the tax burdens on families. The fact is that direct and hidden taxes are already the major cause of family poverty.

It also said:

Disguised increases in family tax burdens will only lead to more marriage breakdowns, more welfare dependency and more families unable to repay their loans.

Is that not exactly what is happening today? Australian families are in crisis and Labor is contributing to that crisis. Labor has to get off the back of the average Australian family. The way out of our problems is not to increase taxes on Australian families. Single income families in particular have suffered under Labor.

Let me just refer to a media statement by the Australian Institute of Family Studies which highlights the problems faced by single income families. It states:

. . . a one income family with two children requires an income of approximately $42,900 in order to have the same disposable income of a single male on average yearly earnings of $24,000. This is because of the costs of supporting family members and is the reason family allowances were introduced.

It is no wonder that more and more mothers of young children are being forced back into the work force to try to help the family budget, to try to stop the family from being bankrupted and to try to save the family home. The Government's economic policies constitute the most serious attack on Australian families and the very fabric of our society. I believe it is the greatest attack that we have seen on Australian families since the Great Depression. It is time for Labor to change its direction. It has to stop taxing Australian families out of existence. It has to lift the burden on Australian families. The attack on Australian families must be halted. The Opposition has the remedy. Our tax and welfare policies will be co-ordinated to discriminate positively in favour of families, especially families with young children.